Firstly, it is sensible to answer the question “When is a sale a sale?” Too many agents book sales which don’t fit stringent criteria and therefore those spurious deals are always susceptible to failing to go the distance. A genuine sale should have a complete chain top and bottom. The chain beneath should be verified in detail before the vendor makes their decision as to whether to accept the offer or not. This is basic estate agency, but worryingly not part of the culture of every agent I have come across. Pressure on negotiators from bosses to achieve a monthly or weekly target of agreed sales can lead to corner-cutting and rushing to get the sale “in the figures”. One estate agency firm I know suffered a cancellation rate of hugely above the national average as a result of this culture. There is also an inherent danger in booking sales where the chain is incomplete above – in other words where the vendor has yet to find. Countless sales of this nature collapse when the client realises they can’t find or afford their ideal next home and thus decide to stay put and pull out of their sale.
Secondly, the diligence of gaining all key detail makes a massive difference to success. Whilst there is a natural adrenalin rush on the part of the agent as a new sale is being negotiated, this must be tempered by adhering to “best practise” principles of a few minutes reflection on the importance of being in possession of all the key information, ensuring that the sale is of an appropriate quality to justify the agents’ understandable excitement.
An hour’s effort and diligence in establishing chapter and verse on a potential sale in the first instance can avoid days of firefighting later in trying to hold it together. An interesting litmus test is to ask yourself whether you would be happy to agree this sale and remove the property from the market if it were your own home…
Detail on what fixtures and fittings the buyer is expecting to be left, and which the vendors are happy to leave, is best dealt with at the earliest stages of negotiation – after all, at this point all parties are rather fond of each other and therefore more amenable and flexible. Those positive feelings tend to wane somewhat six weeks into the transaction when things are starting to get a little fraught.
Timescales and target dates are also best nailed down as early as possible. So many sales have gone sour due to incompatible completion dates which in reality should have been spotted at the outset by a competent negotiator. It also strikes me as strange that when new homes are sold, there is an agreed deadline for exchange as a condition of the buyer’s offer being accepted, yet when agents agree resale sales, deadlines and target dates are often not even mentioned. This issue will only serve to come back and haunt the agent, when the vendor or purchaser runs out of patience because their desired timeframe is not achieved.
Expectations must be managed very carefully with all parties, more so now than perhaps ever before, given that the sales process is grinding ever more slowly in many parts of the country – surveys, searches and mortgage offers taking an age to appear.
With all these steps taken in the early stages, your sale will be ready to place into the hands of a conveyancer. And here is where your problems really can begin…
However, although not all conveyancers work with the same sense of urgency and focus as estate agents, there are some really good ones out there. Build a relationship with a reliable and motivated firm. Agree service standards and referral mechanisms. There has been some bad press about agents forcibly recommending their own conveyancers so tread carefully. In my view, you would not be doing your job properly as an agent if you didn’t point out that using the right conveyancer can massively increase the chances of the transaction reaching completion within the desired timescales. Conversely, the wrong conveyancer can lead to heartache, stress and regret.
It is difficult to assess the national average cancellation rate but 1 in 4 is often quoted as the benchmark. One major conveyancer cites a figure well below that.
One thing is certain. There are plenty of agents suffering too higher rate, but a good many who perform way better than others. The aforementioned tips will ensure you fall into the latter category.